Of the many wondrous crafts of Kashmir is the Walnut woodcraft. Kashmir is one of the few places in the world that still produces walnuts at an altitude of 5500–7500 feet above sea level. The Kashmiri walnut craftsmanship is notorious for its baroque and complex carvings. A range of carved products retain motifs of rose, lotus, iris and chinar leaves. Dragon motifs and patterns secured from Kani and embroidered pashminas are also adopted as carvings on walnut wooden commodities.
The walnut wood used in Kashmiri ingenuity is taken from mature trees that are as ancient as 300 years. Walnut trees are of four types-- ‘Wantu’ or ‘Vont Dun’, ‘Dunu’, ‘Kakazi’ or ‘Burzol’ and ‘Khanak’. The wooden planks obtained from these trees are numbered and piled upon each other with a layer of a gap between each for passage of air which helps in the process of seasoning.
The master carver, popularly known as naqqash, starts by etching basic patterns on the wood and then uses delicate chisels and a wooden mallet to enhance the design profoundly to make it emerge as an embossed surface. The carvings done on assembles of furniture and delicate items is a sophisticated and elaborate process that requires the ultimate set of skills and time-honoured craftsmanship.
The five extensively known branches of wood carving are:
Khokerdar (undercut): This type comprises multiple layers that give a three-dimensional depiction into various natural spectacles like intertwined flora, flying birds, hopping rabbits and more.
Jalidahr (Open or Lattice Work): Under this type craftsmen make see-through designs, also known as Jali, on screens of wood. The retained patterns are usually of leaf motifs. Jalidahr was immensely acknowledged during Mughal times.
Vaboraveth (Deep Carving): Carvings up to 5 inches are made on wooden planks which makes them look intricately sculpted. The designs usually comprise dragons or lotus motifs.
Padri (Semi carving): In this carving thin panels of wood are attached to the rim of one big wooden panel and motifs are carved in the centre.
Sadikaam (Shallow Carving): In this type of carving the motifs are drawn with a pencil and then traced by chisels to give the designs depth and proper structure.
The history of walnut wooden carving in Kashmir goes back to the 15th century when Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom introduced the craft in the valley. The craft, initially, was restricted to only grandiose palaces and houses and later advanced to a wide range of contemporary products. Mecraaz aims to leisurely introduce this contemporary craft form in your modern homes and create a fusion that offers you the best of art, utility and culture.